Goodbye Google Reader

In my opinion I think there’s a direct relationship between the discovery of Google Reader and my emergence as a blogger through WordPress. I used Google Reader as a way of collating news, where before I would follow websites individually and constantly have lots of bookmarks.


As you might know. Google is shutting down Reader in a few months. I’m very sad. Google Reader is by no understatement, a big part of my life. I find out jobs through RSS feeds, I get podcasts, read news, philosophy blogs, find out about journal articles, watch videos and even follow comedy blogs like wtfpictureisunrelated. The centralisation of my internet browsing in a single place was a great innovation for me. I even made APIs to do things like link it to a mobile phone app, so that when I star a story it will be sent to my phone so I could read it on the train. I’m going to miss GReader and I’m not understating by saying it has been a big part of my modern life.


So now what shall I do? I have been reading a couple of ‘here are some alternatives’-type pieces. I might trial other RSS readers, I might separate my podcasts from blogs – get a podcatcher and then use another program for RSS reading. To be honest I feel kind of lost without GReader. That is the impact of a brand’s presence, and Google’s ubiquity. On the other hand I am not entitled to complain as Google Reader was basically a free service. I think the moral of GReader’s closure is that you really can have iconic brands and presence in the internet and social media age. Maybe one day people will be all hipster if they say: ‘I was around during Google Reader’ or ‘I was using it before it was cool’. One of the other things I didn’t realise is how so many other people use it in largely similar ways to me.


I just hope they don’t close down Evernote, then my life is seriously borked!


Transcribe Bentham

We at the Noumenal Realm have discovered an interesting project hosted by UCL. It is called ‘Transcribe Bentham’ and general members of the public (that’s you) are invited to take part in assisting with the transcription of the 19thC Ethicist/Economist/Legal philosopher Jeremy Bentham. Bentham is a fascinating person who I don’t admit to knowing much about; but he was integral to the founding of University College London, introduced a few words into the English vocabulary, and as well as being the original Utilitarian philosopher; he wrote on a vast range of subjects beyond Ethical theory.

This project consists of transcribing boxes of manuscripts into a digital format that would eventually form a series of published volumes of Bentham’s work that would benefit scholars in the future. This project also introduces people into the issues around transcribing a work from its original source material; for instance, Bentham uses antiquated spellings; writes on margins; scribbles out whole swathes of lines of text, or is just plain illegible. This is a fascinating project to participate in. Not least because of its open participation. I recommend readers of this blog to take a look.


“I write like…”

After seeing a post from Chris on Only a Game, I decided to explore the website ‘I Write Like…’

I decided to submit a few samples.

Sample 1: my personal (and private) journal

I write like
Cory Doctorow

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Sample 2: blog posts from noumenal realm

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Sample 3: My published works

I write like
Vladimir Nabokov

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

I wikipedia’d these people up and I found this: Cory Doctorow is an intellectual software rights campaigner. David Wallace Foster is described in Wikipedia as follows:

“Wallace’s novels often combine various writing modes or voices, and incorporate jargon and vocabulary (sometimes invented) from a wide variety of fields. His writing featured self-generated abbreviations and acronyms, long multi-clause sentences, and a notable use of explanatory footnotes and endnotes—often nearly as expansive as the text proper.”

As for the Nabakov analysis. I’m completely thrown by that….I’m a little flattered though. I personally wish I were compared to Kant or Nietzsche, but I know better than to be both dry and wet respectively (that’s a pun on two levels you know…).


Open source and ‘freeware’

The other day, while on a 4 hour train trek across the country. I managed to get through an issue of a broadsheet and a consumer magazine; it was the latter that really made me think. I bought one of those laptop guides. When it comes to computers, I know that I’m not really a knowledgeable person, but I know what makes things ‘go’ at times. I was surprised to see, when they were addressing some of the relevant factors for selecting software, that I came across a certain kind of ‘moot’ opinion of Openoffice.

The magazine editors were doing a piece comparing non-MS office packages; and openoffice was one of them (and the only one that had no cost!). Openoffice had two flaws apparently:

1. Openoffice does not have some of the functions of MS office 2007, or compatibility with the latest windows office file types. This is certainly true, but this is more a flaw on Microsoft’s part! If any of you have the later versions of MS Word, you might notice that the file type (.docx) is entirely new compared to the .doc. So, if you are emailing a document, you might put yourself, and the other person on the spot, if they can’t read that document they have sent! Putting things in compatibility mode, whether openoffice, or the new word, is a must. In some professions, PDF is the standard for documents anyway, which isn’t allied to a specific or single software package. Openness and compatibility are key these days.

2. Openoffice is blamed, ‘due to being freeware’, of having a few things ‘less’ than other packages. This just sounds like an obvious insult. Consumer magazines strive in a sense to both be unbiases to the personal prejudices of the editorial staff, as well as give deference to the companies that sponsor their publication viz adverdvertising.

This made me think. What exactly is ‘freeware’?

By another event, I was interested in computer games that have either expired copyright or were free. Basically, I found that there were certain kinds of games which do not have copyright or piracy kinds of issues, basically, free games:

1. Ad-supported retail games – these tend to be older games and this is a recent development
2. (A subsection of 1.) Games supported by the US military – this is odd, but this has some strange appeal to me, as if I were to be better in combat situations.
3. Commercial games declared as freeware: this is for various reasons; promoting a sequel, or the latest game in a series, expiration, or sometimes, microsoft have made games under a weird ‘shared license’ notion.
4. Games developed basically by the developer independently. I noticed a figure named Derek Smart, for instance, who seems to be a candidate for this kind of thing: I’m not quite sure how to appraise this type of game release

I consider these species of freeware to be distinct from the software that is released under the GNU license. There are lots of different motivations for releasing freeware, and the open source movement is so distinct, that it almost seems derogatory to deem it ‘freeware’. A better taxonomy should be made anyhow.


25 things about you

I have noticed a few dozen people in my facebook network to be taking part in this ’25 things about you’ craze.

It goes something like this:

tag 25 people in a note,
say 25 things about yourself
those 25 people (if they are fuckwits) will say something about themselves

It’s kind of a self-indulgence thing, or only interesting if you want to bone the other person, or tell someone you want to bone something about you.

Michael was going to write an article on this, but actually say 25 things about himself, I suitably chastised him, and am putting this article in its place

Antisophie (edited by last laugh Michael)

Are slashdot secretly democrats?

I’ve seen a great many stories on slashdot about how amazing Obama is:

1. Obama loves his blackberry
2. Obama seems to be quite open about open source technologies
3. Obama has many advisors who are ‘academics’, Appiah once said of him in a recently documentary “he’s one of us”.

I have also seen on some men’s fashion blogs a critical analysis of his clothing style, some very penetrating thoughts on his sense of dress. Quite in line with the modern well-to-do male. Although, I wouldn’t know anything about that


A fascination with the ‘new’

Aquinas (or someone medieval) was right to believe that all actions contain an element of being good and bad; the proportion of which, depends, ultimately upon what the action is. We may draw good or positive consequences from evil, or horrific, or distressing acts and conversely, we may find unexpected and negative effects from what were intended to be good actions. That concludes my preamble.

In considering all the ‘fad’ things of the past few years, they seem to all point to some large global database that is accessible to all. It almost seems dictatorial in a way, but what seems more disturbing is that the forces of the free consumer has led to its wide proliferation, it is a ‘voting by feet’, if you would.

What kind of things do I refer to? Well, all sorts: iTunes, with its local area network capacities; Facebook, for being, well, Facebook-ey; Twitter, Linkdin, publically accessable RSS feeds. While the positives of these things are seemingly obvious, greater interconnectedness, the establishment of communities, interests and relations that are not constructed by geographical location but by shared interests, beliefs, or practices; breaking down of social barriers, particularly for the severely physically disabled (I am considering Second Life in particular); and, well, a more accessible face to contemporary technology.

This sounds all good right? Well, consider that each small ‘innovation’ does have an effect on privacy and the possibility of being monitored. The debate about policing the internet will inevitably rise (as it does in all sorts of other issues), a discussion which must be had. As people wholeheartedly embrace so many of these interesting innovations and dotcoms, we may find our rights and privacies slowly diminishing, and once this occurs, we have no-one to blame but ourselves. Perhaps a Leviathan appeal can be made: that the individual is at their most fundamental, stupid and ambivalent to the security and welfare of the whole such that an outside agency representing the manifold of individuals holds to protect all.

The fascination with the new should be seen with disdain and interest, while excess in either element may hinder us; a more critical use of the internet is crucial; the question is, how do we teach or foster this kind of attitude? I could assume that more familiar internet users (e.g. those who have been involved with or users of the web since the 1980’s or 90’s) have a native savvy about them; those who have grown up taking the internet, and new technologies for granted often have an uncritical acceptance of what it can do.



Google is an amazing tool to use; there are many instances when you want to know those varied and random things like what are the chemical constituents of paper, or how many films has Christopher Walken appeared in. There are, however, many people who have started to speak out against the ‘spoon-feeding’ of information.

There is nothing inherently wrong with having instant access to search engines and large databases (if anything its pretty good); but, like libraries, the real skill is knowing how to use it properly. Know that internet sources are always sketchy and up for scrutiny. Even major journals are subject to hurrendous articles: consider for example, an article in The Lancet, whereby a link between Autism and the MMR vaccine was made.

Sometimes if you say something enough times, people might believe you. Sometimes, if someone you trust says something, or someone older, someone perceived as wider, or someone who says something convincingly, we may be prone to believing it. Be warned of a philistine ‘video’ generation. I am quite tired of people who are not willing to mine hard for their information. Then again, I suppose, when you think that all the information is on the first result of a search engine, you may feel that it is not worth or even conceivable that hard work is necessary anymore.

There is a sense in which people should learn how to be internet-savvy, more cynical, more critical, and most importantly, less lazy and more vigilant about their information.